Terra looking ahead to proposed state funding changes

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Courtesy of The New Messenger


College prepared for state funding shift

Terra State Community College officials are preparing for a proposed shift in how the school is funded by the state, as the college looks to boost the number of students completing courses, degrees and certifications in the coming years.

President Jerome Webster said that Terra State had already taken steps in an anticipated transition from enrollment-based to student success-based funding, formed on Gov. John Kasich’s proposed 2014-15 biennial budget.

The Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission developed a funding formula that emphasized course completion, as opposed to enrollment, that the governor has embraced in his proposed budget.

Webster said that Terra had already made strides to increase student success on its campus and respond to a need for students complete coursework and more efficiently pursue their education.

“I think we’ve been a little bit ahead of the curve,” Webster said.

In the first year of Kasich’s proposed budget, funding for community colleges would become 50 percent enrollment-based and 50 percent student performance-based, Webster said.

Webster said that in the first year of the biennial budget, Terra expects that its state funding would be relatively flat with a 1.9 percent targeted increase in revenues.

He said the success of a community college under the proposed funding formula would be based on success points awarded by the state when a student completes a certification or degree, or moves from a developmental to college-level course.

Success would also be rated on factors such as how many Terra students transferred to four-year universities.

“The greater the points, the more funding you get,” Webster said.

Webster said the commission would still need to determine how the funding model would be developed in the second year of the budget, when funding would shift to being 100 percent student success based.

The Terra president said for community colleges, one issue is many students never intend to complete a degree or credential at that school, but are taking classes either for professional development or to transfer credits to another four-year school.

The state looking at factors like course completion, in terms of determining community college funding, is big for colleges like Terra in that regard, Webster said.

He and Treasurer Randy McCullough said Terra is looking at ways, such as the development of academic plans for every student, to ensure that students “get done” with their education.

“We just want more people to graduate,” McCullough said.

Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, declined to comment on the proposed community college funding changes. Damschroder said the Ohio Senate was looking at the budget and proposed funding changes from the amended House Bill 59.

“It’s a dynamic process,” Damschroder said Thursday.

Webster said in the fall of 2010, Terra instituted its first Survey of Entering Student Engagement survey for new students and put together an orientation program in the 2011 spring semester.

Terra has also put in place mandatory meetings with academic advisers and worked to fine tune incoming student assessments to see if it can get students on a quicker path to enrolling in college level courses, Webster said.

The college is also looking at cohort scheduling, with an emphasis on students working closely together with academic peers, and exploring whether it can make work-based experience a reality for students in every Terra degree program.

“We’ve made changes rapidly based on what we’ve seen at other places,” Webster said, adding that the size of the community college helped in terms of giving Terra flexibility with changes larger schools in the region don’t have.

Webster said Terra is looking at the proposed state funding formula as it continues to feel the impact of funding changes on the federal level, particularly with the Pell Grant program.

As of July 1 last year, Pell Grant recipients were limited to six years at full-time status.

In the 2012-13 school year, 78 percent of Terra State students who applied and were eligible for financial aid were eligible to receive a Pell Grant.

The school is tentatively expected to receive an increase in Pell Grant funding in the 2013-14 school year (from $88,223 to $112,266), but less students are eligible to apply.

Joe Spencer, Terra’s director of financial aid, told the Terra board in June 2012 that 151 Terra students were no longer eligible for Pell Grants because of the new rules.

Webster said Pell Grant changes affect rural community colleges more than urban ones.

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